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Tag Archives: The parable of the Prodigal Son

Lowering the Bar or Extending God’s Grace?

As a former Catholic, you can tell a lot about the direction of a church based it’s leadership.  Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is now calling for priests to forgive any woman who has terminated a pregnancy.  During a recent interview on cable news, a member of a local archdiocese summarized this theological change.  In the past, female Catholics who had an abortion were excommunicated from the church, viewing this act of killing an innocent life.  Today, Pope Francis wants to focus on love and forgiveness by extending grace to those who have fallen short of God’s glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I heard excerpts of this interview, I wasn’t sure what to think.  However, now that I have had time to digest this new stance, there are two possible explanations.  First, the church is lowering the bar by altering the expectations of what it means to be a modern day Christian.  Just as public education has changed the standards for a passing grade, clergy is now more accepting.  As godliness diminishes within society it’s hard to find willing servants of Jesus.  Thus, many churches are being forced to overlook past transgressions to fill half empty buildings and worship services.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace, Romans 11:6.

The other logical explanation is a shift from an Old Testament view of God’s wrath and judgment toward a New Testament approach based upon the love of Jesus.  This theological position points to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  God is already working in the lives of the righteous according to Matthew 9:9-13.  It’s the rebellious, lost and those wandering in the dark who need help.  Instead of emphasizing church growth, pastors have become more evangelistic to reach out to a generation of people who have not grown up in the church.  Depending upon your theological beliefs, you may lean toward one of these two positions.  Nonetheless, the church is suppose to be the hands and feet of Christ, like a beacon of light piercing into the darkness of a spiritually dead and dying world.

by Jay Mankus

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Why an Emergency Fund is Essential

Rainy day funds are usually used to apply to the funds maintained by most U.S. states to help deal with budget shortfalls in years where revenues do not match expenditures.  In the days of fiscal responsibility, state leaders annually balanced their budgets rather than borrowing from the future to pay for present unforeseen costs.  The state of Texas uses an Economic Stabilization Fund as their rainy day fund, tapping into this when deemed necessary.  Unfortunately, most modern leaders rely on the federal government as their piggy bank, taking more than putting back.  Thus, when disaster strikes unexpectedly, many are left begging the United States for federal assistance.

The younger of them [inappropriately] said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided the estate between them. 13 A few days later, the younger son gathered together everything [that he had] and traveled to a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and immoral living, Luke 15:12-13.

The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most referenced stories in the Bible.  Yet, few recognize the mention of an emergency.  Just as this immature son wasted his inheritance on wild living, a great famine swept across this region.  Luke uses the phrase “he began to do without and be in need.”  It sounds like this young man was forced to be become a pan handler, scrounging around the streets to survive.  Like Joseph during the famine in Egypt, you have to save during times of great abundance to endure lean periods.  The prodigal son was so consumed by indulging his sinful nature that he neglected to create an emergency fund.

Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need. 15 So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him, Luke 15:14-16.

While human beings make plans for the future, only God knows your ultimate fate.  Two weeks ago I felt fine, unaware of the internal state of my body.  Today, I have to watch everything I eat and drink so that my blood pressure returns to healthy levels.  I’m not homeless like the prodigal son, but I am forced to re-evaluate my diet, exercise and daily routine.  Foregoing my favorite meals is going to be difficult, but if I want to improve my overall healthy changes must be made immediately.  Emergency funds are a biblical concept to help you through transitional phases in life.  When medical conditions take you away from work or the ability to earn money, savings are there to fall back on.  May this blog inspire you to prepare like Joseph in the Old Testament, making the most of rich harvests by establishing an emergency fund.

by Jay Mankus

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?

While most people have moved on with their lives following Easter Sunday, there is something I want you to consider about this religious holiday.  One of Jesus’ last words before dying on a cross reflects the anguish within his heart and soul.  In order for God’s plan to redeem mankind to be completed, Jesus’ heavenly father watched from a distance as his son died.  This lack of action caused Jesus to cry out, “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:46

If God let Jesus suffer and die, then human beings face a similar fate.  Despite God’s love for His one and only son, sometimes it feels like God turns his back on us as well. When Christians are in trouble, most reach out to God in prayer, begging and pleading with the Lord for divine intervention.  When a period of time passes without a clear answer, miracles don’t happen or a friend dies, many people feel like God has abandoned them.  When God doesn’t act immediately, its not uncommon to believe or think that God has forsaken you.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20.

Behind the scenes, God is more like the father portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Unfortunately, while on earth Christians must live by faith, not by sight.  Human nature craves and longs for signs from God.  Yet, faith must remain firm when God is silent.  Like a roller coaster that goes up and down, there will be moments when God’s presence seems near.  However, faith needs to steer you during periods of darkness.  If you lose hope, you too may be tempted to exclaim, “eli, eli, lama sabachthani which translates my God my God, why has you forsaken me into English.  In the meantime stay strong or if you have to, lean on others to get you through trials in this life.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus’ Last Will and Testament

A will is a legal document that allows you, among other things, to designate how and to whom your property is distributed.  Prior to the formation of modern companies like Legal Zoom, the Old Testament reveals the inheritance process for Jewish families.  Jewish inheritance customs were linked to family blood lines as detailed in Numbers 27:8-11.  The parable of the Prodigal Son refers to the financial breakdown with the oldest son receiving a greater percentage of wealth.  In the case of Jesus, his clothes were decided by chance, as soldiers cast lots to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy.

So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it will be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture, “They divided My outer clothing among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” 25 So the soldiers did these things.  But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister [Salome], Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, John 19:24-25.

Prior to his death on a cross, Jesus’ mother was the only family member to believe, remaining faithful to the end.  Since his father Joseph died years earlier, Mary was Jesus’ sole concern.  After members of his family referred to him as a crazy man who had lost his mind in Mark 3:21, Jesus embraced those who did the will of his heavenly father.  These are the individuals who Jesus called his family.  Yet, Jesus’ last will and testament was directed to John, handing the care of Mary over to him.  The passage below suggests that Mary moved into John’s house, staying with him until her death.

26 So Jesus, seeing His mother, and the disciple whom He loved (esteemed) standing near, said to His mother, “[Dear] woman, look, [here is] your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple (John), “Look! [here is] your mother [protect and provide for her]!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own home, John 19:26-27.

Beyond any possession that you may pass onto family, there is something more valuable.  The legacy that you leave behind will either inspire or deflate your children, family and spouse.  This mark can’t be faked as time will reveal the true nature of your character.  In a sense, Jesus’ legacy was carried on by 11 disciples and first century apostles.  Delegating, preparing and teaching these individuals has kept the good news of Jesus Christ alive today.  As you draw near the grave, may the Holy Spirit prompt you to develop a sense of urgency so that your faith will be passed on to the next generation.

by Jay Mankus

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